Allegaeon – Damnum

Damnum Album Cover Art

Allegaeon – Damnum
Metal Blade Records
Release: 25 February 2022
Running time: 60:00
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
10/10 

 

It’s been a while since Colorado’s Allegaeon penetrated my cranium. 2019’s ‘Apotosis’ to be precise with a live show in The Fleece in Bristol in support of German Tech Death giants Obscura proving that the band were just as breathtaking live. Before that their 2016 album “Proponent for Sentience” had also wowed me. So, when their sixth full-length dropped, it was with greedy, clawing hands that I grabbed the opportunity to immerse myself once more into some of the most technically blistering Heavy Metal that you can legally purchase.

This is the debut album for new drummer Jeff Saltzman and the Cotinuum live drummer doesn’t disappoint with a performance which is simply Technical Death Metal perfection. Laying down the barrage of aural assaults from the start, it only takes a couple of minutes to sit back down in awe at the aural assault unleashed on ‘Bastards of the Earth’. Of course, it’s not just the drumming that makes Allegaeon such a force. Riley McShane’s vocal performance is once again outstanding, switching between perfect cleans and demonic growls with a fluidity so many of his peers are unable to capture. Alongside this the dual guitars of Greg Burgess and Michael Stancel are explosive, the fretboards red hot as the double axe attack shreds and melts for fun. 

With ample melody as well as swathes of sheer brutality, “Damnum” is one mighty schizophrenic record that switches at will. The gentle synths and vocals that introduce ‘Of Beasts and Worms’ for example, gives a sense of calm before an explosion of intensity in the shape of an absolute battery of technical death metal erupts. The vocals hold the line and despite the raging chaos, the melody wins out. It’s compositions like this that make this band so unique. 

Dive deeper into the album and it’s impossible not to be stunned by the complexity of the band’s compositions. What makes “Damnum” so deliciously addictive is the increase in tempo of everything they have done here. The melody is evident, and so is the visceral intensity. At times, this album is just so damn heavy. It is punishingly brutal. 

With all five band members involved in the writing of the album for the first time ever, it’s evident that this has been beneficial for all parties. McShane notes: “We didn’t want to keep knocking on the same creative door that wasn’t ever getting opened. We didn’t want to force ourselves to stay in a box that had been built for ourselves over the years.” If you want evidence of this, just explore the mesmerizing fourth track – ‘To Carry My Grief Through Torpor and Silence’. It contains everything that you could possibly want in just over five minutes of magnificence.

Saltzman’s drumming is immense throughout, a rapid-fire machine gun and he has locked in tightly with bassist Brandon Michael, the pairing providing the concrete solidity that the band has hankered after for years. Listen to their complete synchronicity on the galloping ‘Vermin’ as just one example, their combined approach paving the way for some of the most expressive guitar work ever heard on an Allegaeon album. 

‘Damnum’ is Latin for loss and whilst it is more often used in legal parlance, there is a personal meaning for the band which made it appropriate for the title of the album. “The band experienced a lot of death within our personal lives, and it colored the album,” explained McShane. The track ‘Called Home’ is particularly poignant, allowing McShane and Burgess to achieve closure on the suicide of people close to them. It’s a monster of a track, slower than the usual blistering tempo, with the lyrics hitting deep. At times the track veers towards the likes of Opeth, with gentle semi-acoustic passages and heartfelt clean vocals. It’s another example of the versatile nature of this band. 

With metaphors for mental health littered throughout the album, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is too dark a place to go. You would be wrong, and even the concluding track ‘Only Loss’, with its stark bleakness is intended to provide some comfort and hope. “This song is about coming to terms with the fact that sometimes life can be challenging, and it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

‘Damnum’ may well be the album that Allegaeon have been promising for so long. It’s a challenging listen, and if you don’t like frenetic paced time changes, roaring vocals and at times incredible bursts of speed, then you may struggle. But you should at the very least try. Converting lessons from the ‘Apotosis’ into practical application, Allegaeon have produced one of the most incredible albums of 2022. It may only be February, but we have a contender for album of the year right here. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Bastards of the Earth
02. Of Beasts and Worms
03. Into Embers
04. To Carry My Grief Through Torpor and Silence
05. Vermin
06. Called Home
07. Blight
08. The Dopamine Void Pt. 1
09. The Dopamine Void Pt. 2
10. Saturnine
11. In Mourning
12. Only Loss
 
LINE-UP:
Greg Burgess – Guitar
Michael Stancel – Guitar
Riley McShane – Vocals
Brandon Michael – Bass
Jeff Saltzman – Drums
 
LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul hitchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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